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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9377


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (15:52): I too rise to take note of comments by my ministerial colleagues during question time, and I will absolutely address the banking royal commission. The first comment I'd make is that, unusually, I wholeheartedly agree with Senator McAllister's comments commending the government for introducing this royal commission on banking and financial services. I also commend the government on the terms of reference and, in particular, on the timing of it to get in, get it done and implement the recommendations of the many inquiries that have been happening since then.

Despite the demonisation by those opposite of the Australian banks, there is no question that our banking system and our financial sector in general are strong and robust. However, there is also no question that there have been many issues that have to be addressed by this parliament and by our agencies. That is particularly why I commend the government for their approach on this. As early as a few days ago, I was still unconvinced. I was open to the idea, but I was unconvinced it was necessary given the depth and breadth of activities the government has already been taking, and I've said so on the public record. But, after having a look at the terms of reference today and how they intend to go about it, I think that it is the right thing to do at this time, and I will explain why.

Senator Polley was just telling us that those opposite have, for 601 days, been calling for a royal commission into the banking and financial sectors. Guess what? This government, for those 601 days, hasn't been calling for a two-, three-, four- or five-year royal commission which would mean that nothing would have happened in relation to reforms until the end of the inquiry. So, Senator Polley, in the 601 days during which you have been calling for yet another inquiry, what has this government been doing? Let me tell you that what we have been doing is really substantial. In those 601 days during which you were proposing a lawyers' picnic, this government has conducted the Murray financial system inquiry, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority has been established, there are additional resources and powers for ASIC, the Banking Executive Accountability Regime has been introduced, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics has done a significant amount of work, and we have increased competition in the banking sector. So, instead of waiting 601 days for an inquiry, we have taken substantive action which I commend the government for.

But now the government is saying that, given the political events surrounding us, we need certainty for our banking sector. It is a sector which is absolutely vital for our economy, for our national sovereignty and for every single man, woman and child in this country, who need a strong, reliable and secure banking system. All of these reforms and actions that have occurred to date—and if I had another half an hour, Senator Polley, I would happily go through—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Reynolds, I will remind you to make your remarks—

Senator REYNOLDS: Through the chair, my apologies.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: No, to the chair.

Senator REYNOLDS: To the chair. I would happily remind those opposite, including Senator Polley, of all the achievements that have been implemented and are still in the process of being implemented. What the government has done with this announcement today is absolutely in the best interest because those reforms that wouldn't have happened under your regime and your proposal are still being implemented. We will have a 12-month inquiry while all of the other reforms are happening, and then additional reforms will be brought in at the end of that time. Again, I thoroughly commend the government for that very sensible approach.

So, why now? The government has been very clear, and the Treasurer and the Prime Minister both said today, that ongoing speculation—quite often generated by those opposite—about a royal commission is causing disruption and uncertainty and has the potential to impact and to undermine Australia's reputation as a world-class financial system. It's got to such a point that even the major banks have today asked for that uncertainty to end, which is not, as they suggest, some grand conspiracy. It is actually in the national interest for our banks to have certainty and for all of the millions of Australians—not only the hundreds of thousands of Australians employed in our banking and financial sector, but also every single Australian—to know that their money, their superannuation and all of their other financial affairs are managed, and managed very well and transparently. Most Australians, as I said, are consumers of banking, superannuation and financial services and they all have the right to be treated fairly. I commend the government's action to the Senate and I congratulate them.